Original Research - Special Collection: African Hermeneutics

A tale of two Tamars: Domestic violence in the Hebrew Bible

Yonky Karman
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2442 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2442 | © 2022 Yonky Karman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 November 2021 | Published: 07 July 2022

About the author(s)

Yonky Karman, Department of Old Testament, Faculty of Theology, Jakarta Theological Seminary, Jakarta, Indonesia; Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Jacqueline Vayntrub argues that the date-palm root helps us see the link metaphor between two Tamar figures in Genesis 38 and 2 Samuel 13. However, it is more appropriate to see its fruit as the link metaphor, although in a negative way. Their bitter experiences of domestic violence are not as sweet as the date-palm fruit. Tamar’s basic right to progeny and motherhood is violated. In the case of David’s Tamar, the culture of silence does not allow her to voice her pain and the perpetrator is granted impunity from the inaction of the administrator of justice. To show how domestic violence occurs in both texts and how they imply things important for the paternal authority and the victim to do, I will do a close reading and some word study.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article expands the issue of sexual violence against women, not only physically but also the violation of their basic rights to a decent life because of the unequal power relations based on gender. This study provides a biblical basis for public theology and sociological understanding of domestic violence.


date palm; basic rights; victim; gender; impunity; public confession


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